I feel like I’ve been spoiled by Disney service. It’s weird to say that as I’ve never really been one to complain about customer service in the past. For example as long as a waiter doesn’t spit in my food, call me names or take more than an hour to get me a refill they’ll still be walking away with at least a 20% tip — post tax, even. However, it’s not really the “the customer is always right” mentality I’m looking for but more the way Disney is organized and pleasant.
Even going to Universal Studios I notice a big difference. Put aside the constant upsells, what bothers me most about Universal Studios is lack of organization. To me, The Simpsons Ride may have the most convoluted and confusing loading system ever invented (though I suppose it was invented for Back to the Future). On top of that I believe Transformers is purposely themed to the military so that the Crew Members or whatever they’re called at Universal can be curt with you and yell at you to move faster thus increasing their capacity. And this is to say nothing of the hot water Universal found itself in this week.
Last weekend my friends and I went to an event near Las Vegas, Nevada called RiSE. We were intrigued by the photos of floating lanterns that instantly called to mind the famous “Now I See the Light” sequence in Rapun— I mean, Tangled. Since this sounded like the best thing ever, we purchased our tickets immediately upon seeing them (this was a few months ago) and made arrangements to make our way up the 15 to Sin City.
Since the event was out in the Mohave Desert, attendees were parked at the Gold Strike Casino in Jean, Nevada. From there we were shuttled for a few miles to a lake bed in the middle of proverbial nowhere. Once off the bus, we had to walk even further through a dark and dusty desert landscape to the location where we’d be releasing our lanterns.
The lanterns themselves were much larger than Tangled had us anticipating, though this wasn’t a negative. Literature for the event encouraged us to take the time to decorate our lanterns or write a message on them. For my lanterns I drew one of the only things I can draw anywhere near decently — a Mickey icon — and made it the “O” in “Oh Boy!” My friend chose to draw a sun design similar to that in the movie and wrote “for the lost princess.”
At around 8:30pm the live music that had been playing stopped and was replaced with instructions for getting our first lanterns airborne. In order to do this we had to first light a tiki torch which then ignited a fuel cell at the bottom of the lantern and filled it with hot air. As we held it over the fire we could see our lantern start to fill out and take shape. After giving the lanterns a few minutes to properly load with air, the man on the PA told us all to let our lanterns go.
The simultaneous release was gorgeous, amazing and bordered on unbelievable. As people looked up from their individual torches and towards the sky you could hear them cheer in awe. After several captured photos and videos that would never fully do the experience justice, it was back to the torch to send off the rest of our lanterns.
Once we exhausted our supply of lanterns our crew packed up and headed towards the buses, all grateful that we had decided to come to the event. We made our way back through the dark and dusty desert to the shuttles when suddenly everyone came to a stop. This is where the trouble started.
It quickly became clear that no one knew what was going on. Apparently there were two lines for the two different parking locations, but no signs or barricades showing where said lines were. On top of that, several patrons began going around the herd of people either intentionally trying to cut or just falling victim to the lemming effect.
Either way the mood of the crowd changed rapidly and people started to get a little heated. What’s more is that the group — estimated to be around 10,000 people — were staring at buses that weren’t moving at all. When they finally did leave, they apparently left empty as their contracted time had expired.
I’ll spare you the details of our long voyage back home that night, but tell you that we got in line for the buses no later than 9:45pm and boarded our shuttle no earlier than 1:45am. By that time, any event staff that had been visible (i.e. the one girl with a glow wand yelling where the bus lines were that no one could hear) were gone and the Las Vegas Police Department had taken over and called in seemingly every available shuttle bus in Clark County to help prevent a riot.
Sure a four hour wait is never fun but it could have been worse; since the event had been billed as a “family-friendly” many parents were left carrying understandably exhausted children. Then there’s the fact that it does get cold in the middle of the desert in the wee hours of the morning and people had resorted to building bonfires to keep warm.
We got home safe and sound that night and tried to focus on the positives instead of the horrendous negatives. I couldn’t help but feel that had the event been hosted by Disney it would have been a different story. For one I bet we would have been in bed three hours earlier. Secondly instead of it being one staffer versus a 10,000-person mob there’d have been an army of Cast Members communicating to said mob. Oh and they’d be actual helpful signage — novel, I know.
So maybe I am spoiled by Disney service, but is that such a bad thing?
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Kyle is a writer living in Springfield, MO. His deep love of Disney and other pop culture finds its way into his stories, scripts, and tweets. His first book “The E-Ticket Life: Stories, Essays, and Lessons Learned from My Decidedly Disney Travels” is available in paperback and for Kindle. http://amzn.to/1CStAhV